1. They have nice heads. Heads you can nibble on, steer them by if necessary, cover with kisses. Solo's is so great (probably just because he has less hair) that we can't stop grabbing it and saying, "I love your head!" to which he says, "I'm not! I'm Solomon!" Okay.
2. They put up with a lot. THIS CANNOT BE SAID ENOUGH. They have fluidly adjusted to having power for only ten hours a day, FOR EXAMPLE. We do a lot by candlelight. They love to light candles, (the big kids) they love using flashlights. They make everything more fun. Better.
3. Extension of 2: Recently Kid A and YaYa have become incredibly polite about people talking to them. They say Namaste in response politely, and YaYa even lets people touch her hair. If we are out, it can be twenty times a day. She wants to be so nice, suddenly. She doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I've explained to her that just reaching out and touching her hair is okay, but if they keep on playing with it, she can ease herself away or just ask people to stop. Anyways, it is the sweetest thing to see them becoming these polite people. It can be overwhelming; the amount of people who want to know our names or where we are from or whether our hair is "original" or "duplicate," but they handle it with grace.
4. They love to dance. The dancing that was going on with our Geography Songs when we were doing school the other day was just ridiculously fun. Singing and dancing about Equatorial Africa and the Middle East. How can I not have the best time teaching these kids? Listen. We have rough school days, too. YaYa has a panic button that keeps her from learning sometimes. And Kid A has focus issues. But schooling is like any practice (like meditation or prayer); you have good days and bad days and our good days are like diamonds. But beyond school even, the dancing is hysterical. Imagine walking past a club on the street and having all four of your children break out their best moves. It's awesome.
5. They love each other. With violence, at times. I admit, I sometimes feel that I have a pack of wrestling lemurs, crawling all over each other and tearing the peace and quiet to bits. But I have seen such genuine acts of love from each of them, as they struggle through all the giving that needs to go on with siblings, especially siblings so close in age. I don't think I realized how much giving they do until I went on that trip with only YaYa and saw how different it was for her to have ALL my attention.
6. They love beans. I love having kids who love beans. YaYa loves beans so much that she would write poetry about them, if she could. Lentils, pintos, garbanzos. They love them.
7. Imagination! If you could harness it, it could change the world. They always have something they are pretending. It doesn't stop. The hardest part about it is getting their attention during the midst of a crazy game of pretend. I have to stand there and holler, because they literally can't hear me. It can be dicey, at times, trying to decide whether Leafy's robots are allowed in the animal games. Each person's imagining is so strong that it doesn't leave a ton of room for the other's. I find myself embroiled in these debates about the positioning of pretend lands on pretend maps, whether a certain kind of animal is allowed on a certain kind of island. I enter in enthusiastically, but have to retreat with my arms over my head. The details are too much for me. (You'll be happy to know that in Leafyland, there is a Coffee Island, for grownups.)
8. They are kind to animals. And they know it. They often say, "This dog loves us because we're nice to him and other people aren't." YaYa is kind to everything. She gets heartbroken over a crushed snail, lets ants crawl over her arms (I know!), becomes furious about fly killing.
9. They have a lot of faith in us. It makes us better.
10. They make our games better. If we watch TV, Chinua likes to pretend that he is speaking for the characters, whether they are sharks on Animal Planet, or soccer players, or people on commercials. It's hilarious, and the kids play along and make us laugh. YaYa and Kid A are playing rummy now (yes! rummy players!) and well, I guess I just really want to say that they make life more fun.
Note: People are always mentioning that our kids must be a lot of work. ALL THE TIME. People on the street. "Four kids! You must be tired! A lot of work!" The other day, YaYa asked me, "Are we too much work? Is it hard to have kids if it's such a lot of work?"
Goodness. She's been listening. Well, this is my response. Life is so much richer with them. They make traveling richer for us, fun is better, and the quiet moments? They are a lot more precious.